There is currently a severe, nation-wide shortage of professionals in the skilled trades—particularly electricians. Skilled trades are an endangered species these days as more and more young people opt for jobs in technology, business management, and other college-track careers.
At the same time, the demand for electrical work is booming. “It’s crazy! There’s too much work out there. I’m actually having to turn down referrals.” – says Eric Graybill, a professional electrician working in Colorado.
According to the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA), 7,000 new electricians join the workforce each year, but 10,000 retire from it, leaving contracting firms and their customers struggling to manage a net deficit of skilled labor. As recently as October, the Department of Labor & Industry warned of a critical shortage of skilled workers in Pennsylvania. One local contractor in Pennsylvania has been forced to use subcontractors for some jobs because they have been unable to find qualified applicants; so the business which once employed 12 electricians in the field, for example, now only has two.
Now, when construction is rising, it’s more crucial than ever to attract new electricians, plumbers, carpenters, welders and other tradesmen into the workforce to keep industries like construction, HVAC services, energy and utilities, manufacturing, and many more, moving forward.
What’s Being Done to Address the Shortage of Electricians?
In a time when many industries in our country are shrinking or laying off workers because of the adoption of technology and outsourcing to places where labor is cheaper, home-based trades jobs are in high demand. These are jobs that will not go away and which must be done on site—they can’t be replaced by robotics or outsourced abroad.
Highlighting the Career Benefits
Currently labor unions and trade representatives are working to raise awareness about the many benefits of working in the skilled trades, including:
- Job security,
- Job benefits and pension,
- Comfortable salary,
- Easy entry to job market,
- Abundant training opportunities,
- Labor union representation,
- Opportunity to work independently and own your own business.
For example, a local initiative is offering career counseling for workers. The SkillUp Coalition is working with Philadelphia nonprofits, training facilities, and employers to get more people into these high-demand jobs that offer a great deal of growth. Along with career coaching, the coalition organizes training opportunities to gain the skills and use the technology needed for today’s jobs.
Better Access to Training
Because of the shortage, trade schools are working to increase recruitment. Part of their strategy is to inform high school students about their options when it comes to a career and the easy access to entering the job market without the need to take out hefty student loans.
Compensation for Learning
Some electrical training programs are even offering a salary to participants while they are learning the trade, working as an apprentice, and completing certification.
Targeting the Under-Employed
Other trade schools are expanding their welcome particularly to adults who are looking to change jobs or return to the workforce. Some of the most dedicated students in electrical apprenticeship programs are those who have been pushed out of other industries due to the wide adoption of technology or those who lost their job during the pandemic.
Joining the trades is a great opportunity for adults who want to earn more, who need to support their family, and who want better work conditions than they’ve had in past jobs. In fact, 53% of those joining the trades in the U.S. are over the age of 45. As a mid-career change, it makes sense because becoming a skilled tradesman requires half the time and half the cost of a bachelor’s degree.
“It’s never too late to learn. I get a little emotional when I say that. It doesn’t matter what you’ve been through in your life; if you’re given the opportunity, the sky is the limit!” explains Woodrow Johnson, a student training to become an electrician in Texas.
Attracting Women to the Trades
Despite the continuing shortage of skilled trades workers, women still make up only 10% of those jobs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and only 2.2% electrician jobs. That’s why many businesses have expanded their marketing and recruiting efforts for electrician positions to include women. Some labor experts in the industry expect the number of females taking on these roles will grow to 14% in short order.
“As a woman in the trades, I had to prove myself, like everyone else. I was fortunate to have a great boss, the best I’ve ever worked with, and an amazing support team. Without the team, we wouldn’t be where we are. I wouldn’t be where I am,” says Donna Quiroz, General Manager of Mister Sparky in Florida.
Why You Should Consider a Career as an Electrician
Related article: What’s Being Done to Fix the Shortage of Plumbers?
AQM Supports the Skilled Trades
With more houses being built and construction booming, filling this gap and relieving this labor shortage is imperative for all of us to move forward.